Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vindictiveness-- the municipal strategy?

The ongoing saga of the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake vs. the District School Board of Niagara continues its sad, slow march to the Ontario Municipal Board, according to this Niagara Advance piece.
The DSBN has put Niagara District Secondary School on notice that if it doesn't boost enrolment to 350 by October, it's days are over. Initial relief in the community the board didn't vote outright to close the school is turning into vitriolic panic as the October count dates gets closer and closer.
NOTL councillors are on the Community Schools Alliance executive.
NOTL's planning committee has now given its consent to screw the DSBN out of a preferred school site in the village, where some in the community want a new school to replace two aging facilities. Why? Because council wants the high school to stay open-- and if it can't, then it wants the building to be used as a school of any kind.
Speaking for the Friends of NDSS, Jamie King urged the planning committee to approve the revisions that would impact on school board decisions.
The zoning as suggested would require the school board “to participate in more thoughtful and engaged discussions regarding the future of elementary and secondary education” in NOTL, King said.
“Despite the fact the DSBN feels it knows enough about the character and nature of our town to unilaterally dictate where education will and will not be offered within our community, we believe that any steps this planning committee can take to ensure our community participates in this decision-making process and that our best interests are served are steps worth taking.”
This doesn't imply the community is entirely supportive. Save Our School supports the new school and has been working its contacts to ensure council knows it wants the new 'Virgil' school to go ahead, where the board wants to build it.
The DSBN has already appealed a severance denial for the subject property. If council votes to pass the new comprehensive zoning bylaw, it will appeal that too. There's far more constructive work that could be done here -- such as drumming up another 100 students for NDSS out of the 350+ who live in NOTL but don't already attend that school -- that would allow this new project to proceed. Instead, council is intent on simply inflicting damage against a board it disagreed with on the future of the high school and making its elementary students pay the price.
Those students won't continue to be served as best as possible in their current schools.
They won't be in a revamped NDSS building that was never built for them and would still be too large for the population.
If I lived in NOTL and wasn't a journalist, I would be among the SOS supporters clearly telling this council to give their heads a shake and realize the future of their elementary and secondary schools don't have to be welded at the hip.